How did you end up tattooing professionally?
I started at a dive on Hollywood Boulevard. It was one of the many tourist traps. They had airbrushers up front and tattooers in the back. My job was selling jewelry and T-shirts to tourists, but I also did these paint-on tattoos. Then a person approached me and asked me if I wanted to apprentice. We quickly moved down to Sunset Boulevard. It took about six months to build this shop called Purple Panther. It was a rough place with a lot of problems early on. The shop is still there and it’s under different management. I hope mentioning it doesn’t besmirch its name. That was 19 years ago.
Was it tough starting out in that kind of environment?
I’m sure a lot of people in tattooing share the same story where they’re thrown into it and you really don’t have much of an apprenticeship because the people around you really aren’t living up to their responsibilities. I had maybe a month and a half of practice before I started working every day. I was opening and closing without any supervision, and that’s not a good way to start. But in some ways I was incredibly fortunate to get around these people who allowed me to get involved with tattooing.
Did you know right away that you had found your career?
That moment didn’t come in for a couple years. It seems kind of taboo for a tattoo artist to say that they weren’t born to do it. But in my case, I had dropped out of college and was just living and trying to figure things out. All of a sudden it started happening to me. It was cool because it was very difficult and I had to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day. I was the shop slave as the apprentice, and our shop had a drug problem. It wasn’t until I started getting exposed to the older, more soulful aspects of tattooing that I realized this was my calling. When I started really getting that personal satisfaction from the work, I was already two or three years in. It dawned on me one day that I was the luckiest guy in the world.
Why did you end up moving from California to Ohio?
All those stories start with a girl, and so does this one. A young lady who was from Cincinnati had moved to Hollywood. When she moved back, I took a vacation out to see her. At that point, I had already grown tired of the pace of Hollywood. It’s this 24-hour drive of who you know, who are you tattooing, and even what concert you were attending. That was never really my thing. When I visited this girl, I noticed that the cost of living was maybe half of what it was in Hollywood. I moved here and rented a single apartment with just a drawing table and lived really simply until I met my wife, Brenda. That’s what kept me here. I have been with her now for 14 years.
Plurabella Tattoo Studio : http://www.plurabella.com/